In the build up to Hallowe’en I was keen to do a few weird crafts, and maybe create a few future traditions that we can do with our daughter as she grows up, and I happened to stumble on an old folk craft of creating dolls with heads made of apples.

The apple is carved fresh and then preserved with lemon juice and salt, and then dried out over a period of time, creating a sort of shrunken head-style figure with somewhat unpredictable gnarly, rubbery features, sometimes puffy and sometimes caved-in.

My first attempt was a bit of a failure. I left the apple heads in a cupboard to dry out and when I came back to them a couple of days later they had gone mouldy. Apparently you can gently wipe the mould away, but I tried this and it all started to spore off into the air, so I stuck the monstrous little things in the bin.

Here are the poor, sad creatures.


The next couple of attempts fared better, although it turns out that apples are quite a tricky material to work with, as they have a tendency to crumble a bit if you use too much pressure.

I did my best to create something slightly uncanny, ideally with sweet but grotesque expressions, something that a child in years gone by might actually have been given, and would have played with, with a sense of unease and creeping dread, but I feel like I ended up with some pretty standard Halloweeny faces.


I soaked them in a bowl with the lemon juice and salt, which did seem to halt and reverse the brown patches, and then I put them in the oven on a really low heat for several hours.


The thing that appeals to me about apples was that they are so cheap and so universal. They’re also so associated with harvest and plenty and with the land, so it feels like there is a real earthiness to the guys, little local spirits.

I’m hoping that their personalities and names will emerge naturally.

There is a really fascinating folklore around apples. I couldn’t put it any better than the episode Apple of my Eye on the Folklore Podcast.

And finally, here is a 19th century apple head doll from the collection of the V&A Museum. The fact that the doll has lasted so well is very cool.


I’d quite like to do an annual craft session where we add to an ever growing family of little Appleheads, sort of like Paul Klee and his hand puppets (check out this link if you haven’t seen them before).

I’ll keep you updated.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s